this nonbinary asexual french illustrator is turning her acne into art

Tish Weinstock

Izumi Tutti on the politics of identity and why you should never be embarrassed of your spots

Ever since they were little, Izumi Tutti has felt the pressure to conform to normative standards of beauty, gender, style and sexuality. “When I was a child I thought I was ugly,” Izumi tells i-D. “I was hairy; my face too masculine, my eyebrows too big, my eyes too small. Sometimes I tried to look like a boy because I often identified more as one. I was told that girls should have fine eyebrows, big eyes, and zero body hair. Because I didn’t have any of this, I felt that I had failed at being a girl.” Now an adult, Izumi couldn’t give two fucks about normative standards and isn’t afraid to go public about it. Take for instance, Izumi’s Insta bio, in which they describe themself as nonbinary (preferring “they," sometimes “she” pronouns), asexual (“I mention it in my bio because we are sadly lacking representation for this sexual orientation”), and body positive, as well as being a huge proponent of “alt style”, which in Izumi’s case means sidecuts, goggles, bread shaped badges, stickers on their armpit hair, and eyebrows painted to look like bumble bees.

Growing up somewhat isolated in France — they were bullied by peers and ridiculed by teachers — Izumi sought refuge in art. “I love art, especially illustration, painting, photography, makeup, tattoos, and fashion,” they say. “For me, composing an outfit can be a form of artistic expression.” Life improved when they discovered the internet, through which they ware able to connect to like-minded people. “I came across Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, feminist activists who were proudly showing off their hairy armpits, questioning our relation to beauty, and the importance of not performing to male desire. At first it shocked me, I’d learned from advertising and TV that women had to be hairless to be seen as attractive. I was assigned female at birth, but I never really identified as a girl. I was also very hairy. When I saw what Molly and Arvida were doing, it really resonated with me, so I stopped shaving and finally felt so much better in my body.”

Through Molly and Arvida’s work, Izumi had access to conversations about body positivity, gender inequality, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other systemic oppressions. “It awoke my political consciousness,” they say. “Through social media, I discovered waves of alternative thought that challenged mainstream ideas. Without all that, I probably wouldn’t have realized the dangers of placing so much value on my physical appearance or even learned to love myself.” Emboldened by a newfound sense of activism, Izumi began making illustrations that questioned the status quo when it came matters of beauty and gender. “With my work I try to represent very varied bodies,” they say, “all kinds of people without making a judgment on them. I think that beauty is something social, these norms change according to the times.”

But Izumi’s art isn’t confined to canvas; it extends to their body, in particular their skin. After years of editing acne out of photos, one day, galvanized by the body positivity movement, Izumi took a pencil to their pimples and began connecting the dots, creating a beautiful constellation, before photographing themself and sharing it on Instagram."I can't control my pimples, but I can change the look I have on them!" read one of their captions.

To Izumi’s surprise, the photos went viral, and people from all around the world began sending in photos of their own constellated pimples. “That made me so happy,” they say. “I didn’t realize it would speak to so many people. I just wanted to show that you can feel beautiful with pimples and that more importantly it is totally normal to have spots. If we stopped discussing pimples and acne only in the context of treatments and cover ups, and we saw more un-retouched images of people in the media, it would help to change our outlook on acne.”

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.